Monday, December 31, 2012

KOF Finales: 96

After beating everyone else (seriously, how is this a tournament?), your team is congratulated by the tournament’s sponsor, a woman in a white dress.  The sponsor says she is disappointed in that she was hoping to see the power that was able to “drstroy” Rugal in the last game.
Since, apparently, nobody told the press about a superpowered cyborg brainwashing people in a missile silo, that’s not information any ordinary person should know about.  When asked how she knows Rugal, the sponsor just says it’s not important.  It's never important when the writers can't think of a reason.

She gets right to the point so fast, your team then has to ask her for her name.

That’s her last name, anyway.  Her first name is Chizuru, and she feels it’s necessary to test your skills, because she has so far not been thoroughly satisfied.  She wants your team’s absolute best.  You have to be strong enough to beat her, at least.

I guess beating three bosses of previous SNK fighting games wasn't impressive enough.

Chizuru is a fresh and interesting character.  Her shtick is that when she uses a special attack, she either launches a copy of herself at the opponent to do it, or leaves the copy behind and does the attack herself.  After the attack, the copy disappears.  Part of the challenge, in addition to her powerful attacks and high health, is keeping track of Chizuru herself, which is what makes fighting her so unique.  It’s like a battle of the mind.  She’s the master of fake-outs.

The atmosphere couldn’t be better.  The grandeur stadium is filled with all kinds of small details, par for the course: the giant screen in the background displays an impressive (for the time) looping animation of characters fighting, there’s a giant-headed mascot of Athena, Andy, and Kyo, along with cameramen, lion statues, and not to mention the enormous audience in the stands and the Olympic-like brazier.  It all shows the in-universe popularity of the new, official King of Fighters tournament.

Topping it off is one of my favorite music tracks in the King of Fighters franchise, the guitar-heavy, but still elegant "Fairy".

Better yet, with the vastly improved AI in KOF 96, it’s entirely possible to fight Chizuru fair and square (increased health and damage output notwithstanding), making it King of Fighters’ first genuinely fun boss fight.

Unless you’re playing at level 4 difficulty or higher.

When the difficulty is set to 4 in a version with difficulty select, Chizuru channels Rugal and apparently hires his AI’s sugar-high kid assistant to press the rising upper attack the microsecond you get within her range.  She does this without fail at all times and faster than any human could input the motion required.  Since that move takes off a good third of your health each time, that means she can wipe the floor with you in seconds.  It seems as though the AI hadn’t quite abandoned their cheating ways at the time of KOF 96.  Play at level 3 (if you’re new to the series, there’s no shame in playing on 1 or 2 either).

After beating Chizuru, she tells you everything.  I’m not going to show a screenshot for every plot exposition, so here’s my long-winded explanation:

Chizuru is the keeper of the Yata mirror, one of three sacred treasures that gives one’s bloodline special powers.  In Chizuru’s case, that would be her copying abilities.  Kyo also has a sacred treasure, the Kusanagi sword, and so does Iori with his Yasakani magatama.  All three are required to seal off a malevolent entity known as Orochi, which wants to destroy humanity because humans have wrecked the earth and he's much less merciful than Captain Planet.
Previously, someone weakened the Orochi seal by killing Chizuru’s older sister, Maki, releasing some of its evil power.  Rugal siphoned some of that power in KOF 95, and was destroyed by it due to not being of a bloodline that can control it.
Chizuru organized the ’96 KOF to gather the strongest fighters she could to help her seal off the Orochi power once again and fight the evil cult that supports it.

But before Chizuru can finish, a new character approaches with a huge gust of wind.  She tells your team that there isn’t much time left, and that someone strong is coming.

Before she can tell your team the name of this person, a powerful wind knocks everybody over, and Chizuru asks your team to defeat the incoming enemy.  Apparently you beating her has weakened her too much to do it herself.  Talk about being counterproductive.

What a dark, foreboding, tension-building, ominous silhouette shot.  But your team doesn’t like it, and demands the figure show himself.  With a gust of wind, he does just that.

This is Goenitz, one of the four heavenly kings of Orochi, and the most powerful.  96 isn’t using the sorting algorithm of evil.  They’re throwing out the strongest first.  That’s a nice change of pace compared to your average action game/movie fare.
Goenitz knows you're taking Chizuru's side in defying the orochi, so he gives your team a choice: die fighting or be killed quickly, to which they choose neither.  In the words of Terry Bogard, “Yu ded!”

Brilliant comeback.  That was just short of "No U."

Chizuru was right when she said this was an unreasonable request.  Look at what he did to the stadium!  It’s wrecked!  There’s a giant swirling vortex in the sky and debris is blowing all over the place!  And she expects your team to fight this walking catastrophe!.... Awesome.

Yes, Goenitz is probably my favorite King of Fighters character in the entire franchise.  He’s pivotal to the story despite only being in one canon game, he has supernatural powers he uses effectively, he’s intelligent, and he almost always keeps a calm and coolheaded demeanor, even in battle.  Like Zelda's Ghirahim, he seems to be playing around instead of really trying, which is even more badass when you consider he’s fighting three champions singlehandedly.
And when I say “singlehandedly”, I mean that literally.  Aside from a couple of moves and his kicks, he always only uses one arm to attack.  All he has to do is snap his fingers or flick his wrist or grab you by the neck or summon tornadoes to completely obliterate your team.
And just to show he’s not showing any mercy either, most of his attacks cut his opponents, spilling blood.

And of course, his theme is awesome: dominating, yet angelic.  It’s like a march tune.

Actually fighting Goenitz is a huge challenge.  Everyone who has gone toe-to-toe with him knows that he loves to spam his "Yonokaze" attack with absolute priority.  Yonokaze creates a tornado in any of four areas in front of Goenitz, from right in front of him to the other end of the screen.  The tornadoes block projectiles and take of a chunk of your health if you touch them in any way without guarding, so a direct approach most definitely will not work seven times out of 10.
Because of this, fighting Goenitz requires some unconventional tactics, proper timing, and defensive playing.

Observe his AI behavior, use a few projectiles to see if he reacts fast enough, leg sweep when he dashes over to your location, keep him in one place with a short-ranged special attack if he constantly tries to fight back the instant he gets up, lowering his guard.
It’s a test of skill and strategy, which is why he and so many of King of Fighters’ bosses are so much fun to fight.

Amazingly, this all works despite the fact that Goenitz openly cheats.  He can use super special attacks without having to charge his gauge, but since he’s a gentleman with a sense of fair play, this isn’t something he abuses often, and he charges his gauge even though he doesn’t need to.  With that in mind, his rule-breaking is forgivable.

Unless you play at level 4 difficulty.

At level 4 difficulty, Goenitz plays perfectly, always blocks all of your attacks, abuses the living crud out of his unlimited super move use, and responds with the same inhuman accuracy as the cheating AI from the last two games!  Play at level 3!

Hiring that sugar-high kid was the best decision I ever made!
At level 3, beating him is doable, but it’s probably going to take a few tries before you manage to win.  The satisfaction when you do is an excellent feeling of triumph though.  Unless you play at level 4; then you’ll just be flipping off the screen and asking yourself why you wasted two hours of your life fighting a cheating AI opponent.


After you win, a dying Goenitz tells you that your efforts to seal the Orochi power again are futile, to which Chizuru tells him it’s as good as sealed away.

Your team tells Goenitz that he’s not going to get away, as his words suggested, but Goenitz is not one to flee.

"Huh?  Why am I falling?"

And then Goenitz blows a gust of razor wind in his direction to kill himself (though that's only implied in most endings).
Goenitz may be dead, but the mission is far from over.  Orochi is still unsealed, and the other three heavenly kings are still out there.  The day will come when humanity will need to be defended again in The King of Fighters 97!

King of Fighters 96’s endgame is brilliantly played, partly because it’s not exactly a finale.  Rather, it’s more of a midboss for the real finale that would take place in King of Fighters 97, making the two separate games feel like one single game storyline.  It ends on a cliffhanger and sets up plot elements to pay off later, but still keeps its own sense of memorable conclusion and accomplishment with its two unique boss fights that both bring something new to the table.  That quality would carry on for the rest of the franchise, and is another reason KOF '96 was such a turning point.

1 comment:

  1. Goenitz is actually diliked by mnay due to his''stupid design''as many put it XD